Posted on: December 1, 2009 2:29 pm
Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary : You made a big deal about Duke jumping North Carolina in the polls last week, and yet you jumped Duke ahead of North Carolina in the Top 25 (and one) this week. What happened to make you change your mind?
Duke went to New York, beat Arizona State and Connecticut, that's what happened.
My initial point was that we shouldn't punish the Tar Heels and drop them to second in the ACC just because they tested themselves in New York with games against Ohio State and Syracuse (beat OSU, lost to the Orange) while Duke had yet to test itself at all. But that changed when Duke played Arizona State and UConn and won both somewhat easily. Now Duke has at least one quality win (to match UNC's quality win over Ohio State), but it doesn't have a loss like UNC's loss to Syracuse.
Posted on: November 23, 2009 9:19 pm
I still have North Carolina ahead of Duke in the Top 25 (and one).
I'll explain why in the Poll Attacks .
AP poll: Do we suddenly believe Duke is better than North Carolina?
If so, I'm fine with it.
It's a reasonable opinion.
But most people didn't believe that in the preseason, and the majority of AP voters didn't believe it last week. Still, Duke jumped North Carolina in Monday's AP poll even though the only thing that happened between last week and this week is that North Carolina played Ohio State and Syracuse, i.e., two teams far superior to any team Duke has played. That's it. Thus, I kept UNC ahead of Duke in the Top 25 (and one) because I'm not going to vault the Blue Devils ahead of the Tar Heels -- who beat OSU but lost to Syracuse -- and rearrange the ACC's predicted order of finish simply because Duke's schedule didn't require it to play tough games before Thanksgiving.
Honestly, where would the Tar Heels be with Duke's schedule?
They'd be 4-0, right?
And where would Duke be with UNC's schedule?
Maybe 5-0. But probably 4-1. And perhaps as bad as 3-2.
Either way, if you had UNC ahead of Duke last week, and you moved Duke ahead of UNC this week despite agreeing with me that Duke would probably be no better than 4-1 against UNC's schedule, then your change atop the ACC is based on how the schedule makers at Duke and UNC did their jobs, and little more.
Again, if you think the Blue Devils are better than UNC, that's fine.
They might well be.
But if you only moved Duke ahead of UNC because Duke won last week and UNC lost last week, then your rankings have more to do with the schedules than the teams, and that's crazy.
Coaches poll: So what do you think California has to do to drop out of the rankings?
Losing a key player (Theo Robertson) to injury didn't do it.
Looking awful in two games in NYC didn't do it.
Being 2-2 with no good wins didn't do it.
So what will it take?
No question, Cal could end up being one of the best 25 teams in the country, at which point ranking the Bears 24th might make sense. But the coaches ranking them 24th now makes no sense unless what happens on the court doesn't actually matter. And it's not just that Cal lost; the nation's 24th-best team could reasonably lose to Syracuse and Ohio State. But Cal had no shot in either game, losing to the Orange by 22 points and falling behind by 24 points in the second half of an eventual loss to Ohio State. And though the absence of Robertson is a solid explanation, it's not like Robertson is back this week.
He's out indefinitely.
California should be, too.
Posted on: November 20, 2009 10:51 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2009 10:54 pm
Who's the man most bothered by what happened at Madison Square Garden late Friday?
It has to be North Carolina coach Roy Williams, right?
I mean, Syracuse just ran his team off the court.
But second to Williams, I'm guessing, is Iowa State coach Greg McDermott, whose former player, Wesley Johnson, led the Orange to an 87-71 win over the Tar Heels while establishing himself as the star of a team that has rebounded from the exhibition loss to Le Moyne with wins over the Pac-10 favorite (California) and ACC favorite (North Carolina). Johnson finished with 25 points and eight rebounds against the Tar Heels; he was the best player on the court. When the Orange move into the top 10 of the Top 25 (and one) late Sunday, he'll be the main reason, making it difficult not to wonder if he could've done the same for Iowa State.
Think about it.
How good would a Wesley Johnson/Craig Brackins combo be this season?
Both are possible lottery picks in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Both are All-American candidates.
If McDermott had them to go with Lucca Staiger and Marquis Gilstrap, the Cyclones might've been the smart pick to finish third in the Big 12 behind only Kansas and Texas. As it is, Iowa State was picked eighth. And it's things like these that can change a coach's entire career.
What if Johnson never transferred? Could he have led Iowa State to the NCAA tournament last season? If so, would the "winning culture" created by an appearance have been enough to convince Ames High star Harrison Barnes to reject an offer from North Carolina and play at the school for which his mother works?
Obviously, we'll never know the answers to those questions.
But they are interesting questions, aren't they?
"We're so thankful to have him here from Iowa State," Syracuse guard Andy Rautins told ESPN's cameras right after the win over UNC. "He's helping this team in more ways than we could've imagined."
Indeed, Johnson is doing exactly that.
Now imagine what he could've done for Iowa State.
Posted on: November 20, 2009 2:14 pm
Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: North Carolina will beat Syracuse by at least 15 points tonight?
If it'll make Syracuse fans calm down , then I'm for it.
But seriously, it should be fun, regardless of the outcome.
Posted on: November 20, 2009 12:53 am
Edited on: November 20, 2009 1:02 am
Evan Turner's second career triple-double was way different than his first -- this one coming in the form of 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 turnovers during Ohio State's 77-73 loss to North Carolina. Seriously, Turner turned it over 10 times, which is both remarkable and unacceptable. And though I'd still take him on any team I coached -- hey, I'm not stupid; the dude is super talented -- it became obvious once and for all Thursday night that Turner isn't playing point guard because he's a great point guard as much as he's playing point guard because he has to play point guard.
Ohio State has nobody else.
And while I suppose, deep down, I've always known that, it was easy to trick myself into thinking otherwise after watching Turner destroy Alcorn State and James Madison in the Buckeyes' first two games. Against those opponents, he looked great. But what many failed to realize (myself included) is that Turner would've looked great against Alcorn State and James Madison regardless of whether he played point guard or center or somewhere in between; he's just on a different level in terms of talent, capable of dominating at any position against that sort of opposition. But when Turner played point guard against similarly gifted guys for the first time Thursday night, the result was a performance most memorable for how he battled foul trouble and continuously gave the ball away.
It was rough.
It was not what I expected.
From Superman to Evan Turnover in a span of 40 minutes.
Posted on: November 18, 2009 3:51 pm
Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: On Friday you wrote that if Harrison Barnes chose UNC you would elaborate on your "reasons" why you changed your prediction to UNC at the last minute. I'm curious as to what these "reasons" were.
First. let me apologize for my empty promise, because I did write last Friday that -- against the advice of most recruiting experts -- I was picking Barnes to sign with North Carolina , and that if I was correct I'd share why I changed my mind from Duke. Naturally, I was correct. But I never shared why I changed my mind, and a bunch of you have asked me to do it, and, well, here you go.
I was at Kansas for "Late Night in the Phog."
So were Harrison Barnes and his mother and his sister.
I had the joy of spending about an hour with the family on that Saturday morning, right after Kansas finished practicing. Harrison wanted to get a workout in, so he worked out while I sat with his mother, Shirley Barnes, and we chatted for a good long while. The conversation reminded me why Harrison is such a well-adjusted young man, because his mother is simply tremendous. Smart, funny, engaging, informed. If every high-level recruit had a mother like Shirley Barnes, recruiting wouldn't be nearly the circus it has become.
Anyway, we talked.
And though I never asked her to share secrets (mostly because I knew she wouldn't), the one thing that stuck out from the totally casual conversation was how she seemed genuinely blown away by Roy Williams' decision to offer her son, wait on her son and promise not to recruit anybody else at his position, no matter what. As some of you may know, this is not how North Carolina normally operates, because it doesn't have to operate that way. UNC offers a kid, he accepts or the Tar Heels move on to the next best kid. They don't wait because they don't have to wait. Eventually, and usually sooner rather than later, an elite prospect accepts, and that's why North Carolina is North Carolina, the reigning national champions.
But for Harrison Barnes, Roy Williams was willing to wait.
This seemed to matter to Shirley Barnes.
And when I told her that Duke has taken a similar approach with certain prospects in recent years, Shirley reminded me that Duke was actively recruiting Roscoe Smith, i.e., another elite small forward from the Class of 2010. I just remember being struck by that comment, how she seemed impressed by UNC's decision to focus solely on her son while Duke recruited both her son and Smith. She brought it up, not me. And when I walked out of the gym I just felt, for the first time, that North Carolina was the team to beat for Barnes.
It's possible I read too much into those comments.
It's possible I read them perfectly.
Either way, that's why I thought what I thought.
And now, I think, we can all move on.
Posted on: November 16, 2009 4:21 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2009 4:22 pm
Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: What do you think is the most interesting matchup this week? Personally I like the UNC/Ohio State game, but there are a few other good matchups. MSU/Gonzaga, Cal/Syracuse, Dayton/Georgia Tech, Kansas/Memphis, Butler/Northwestern. Also after Rider beat Miss State last week do you think they have a shot against Kentucky.
I'm traveling to St. Louis for the Arkansas-Louisville/Memphis-Kansas doubleheader. Should be fun. But, like you, the game I'm most interested in actually watching is Ohio State-North Carolina because I want to see if Evan Turner can post video-game numbers on a legitimate opponent. Through two games, Turner is averaging 19.0 points, 17.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists. He's been awesome. So add me to the list of those anxious to see OSU-North Carolina. It's the best matchup this week, a matchup featuring two possible power-conference champions.
Posted on: November 14, 2009 7:30 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2009 7:44 pm
Jelan Kendrick committed to Memphis on Saturday, giving first-year coach Josh Pastner his third top 20 national recruit and by extension a class that is arguably the country's best.
Kendrick is a 6-foot-6 wing from just outside of Atlanta. He had previously stated he would wait until May to sign, but those plans changed during a weekend visit to Memphis. Kendrick is the third prospect ranked in MaxPreps.com's top 20 to commit to the Tigers. The others are Will Barton (No. 3 at MaxPreps.com) and Joe Jackson (No. 11 at MaxPreps.com). Memphis also has commitments from Chris Crawford, Antonio Barton and Hippolyte Tsafack.
North Carolina is the only other school with three top 20 recruits. The trio of elite prospects committed to the Tar Heels are Harrison Barnes (No. 4 at MaxPreps.com), Reggie Bullock (No. 5 at MaxPreps.com) and Kendall Marshall (No. 13 at MaxPreps.com).